In recent years London has become home to a number of leading fashion designers of Greek heritage. This makes a new month-long exhibition, officially launched by Marios Schwab on Monday February 3 and overlapping with London Fashion Week later in the month, particularly timely.
Patterns of Magnificence: Tradition and Reinvention in Greek Women’s Costume, at Marylebone’s Hellenic Centre, showcases more than 40 magnificent dresses. These include richly embroidered designs from Astypalaia in the Dodecanese, ornate jewellery from Stefanoviki in Thessaly and brocaded outfits from Jannina in Epirus.
The exhibition’s curator Ioanna Papantoniou says that “it is particularly poignant to notice the strong influence traditional Greek costume has had on well-known modern and contemporary designers”. She adds that this is also the first time that these exquisite costumes, from the collections of the Peloponnesian Folklore Foundation and the Benaki Museum in Athens, have been shown outside Greece.
“Traditional Greek dress, with its abundance of rich embroidery and ornate decoration, is, in my opinion, unrivalled by any other European country,” says the Athens-born accessories designer Athena Procopiou, adding that typically intricate patterns and bold colour combinations have inspired her designs since she started. So it seems fitting that she has been chosen to pay homage to the exhibition by creating 20 limited-edition 140cm-squared scarves in two designs that directly reference costumes on show – and which are available from The Hellenic Centre and her brand’s online shop (shop.athenaprocopiou.com).
She says the Peloponnesian, a red and natural-coloured modal cashmere scarf (£195, left in picture), was inspired by the beautiful geometry and two-tone colours used in traditional drop-waisted dresses. “I finished the scarf with intricate floral detailing, a signature of mine, and one that also references Greek folkloric costumes,” she says.
The Astypalaia scarf, also in modal cashmere, comes with pom-poms (£350, right in picture) or without (£250 and also available from Cavan.com). The design incorporates the blue and white national colours of Greece and “a delicate brocade-like motif that forms the scarf’s base, while the signature kaleidoscopic flora on the corners mirror the bold colours often used in Greek traditional costume”.